Jewish Museum in Prague


Documentaction Department

Magda Veselska

Among the key tasks of the documentation department are to record the Museum's collection items and to provide for the all-round care of the resulting sources of information. The recording of collection items is a two-stage process. First, the object is registered in the acquisitions book and allotted an acquisition number; once it has been catalogued by curators it is allotted an inventory number and becomes an integral part of the Museum's holdings. The cataloguing process produces individual card catalogues which are filed on the basis of various criteria (type of object, material etc.).

The sources of information (i.e. registration and catalogue records) administered by the documentation department can basically be divided into two categories - historic and modern. Historical sources document the state of the entire collection until 1950 (when ownership of the Museum was transferred to the State); modern sources cover the period after 1950.

Unfortunately there is no extant source of information from the Museum's early years (1906 - 1940). From archive material we know that the collection is very likely to have been recorded in the form of an inventory, but this was kept at a time when - due to an increase in the number of collection items - the collection was not being arranged with any clarity. The actual number of items in the Museum's collection can be calculated retrospectively.

The most important information on a significant part of the collection is to be garnered from what is known as the German Catalogue, which was drawn up in 1942 - 1945 during the existence of the Central Jewish Museum. Individual catalogue cards contain details of nearly all the objects that were shipped in the course of several months from all the Jewish communities in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and from a number of different institutions (including the pre-war Jewish Museum of Prague). This catalogue does not include objects that were without value, mass-produced or seriously damaged - the only separate records made of the latter were in the receipt register. The German Catalogue comprises sets of catalogue cards that are bound together in book form (there are 202 sets in total, each containing 500 inventory numbers). At present, the entire compilation is being scanned, all the material is being stored on an electronic database (arranged according to individual communities from where the objects were shipped) and each set is being rebound and, where necessary, restored.

A similar two-stage system for recording collection items was introduced in the period after 1950 and, in accordance with the Museum Act of 1959, is still in use to this day - after the details of objects have been recorded in acquisition books they are then catalogued by curators. The documentation department is responsible for maintaining and looking after a compete range of acquisition books as well as a set of card catalogues (the main arithmetical catalogue and special catalogues).

In view of the fact that there are several sources of information and registration (the German Catalogue, the Post-war Catalogue set, acquisition books, card catalogues), all the information contained therein is collated and entered in the Museum's database and archive system. This computer software program is being prepared externally in accordance with the requirements of specialist staff at the Museum and with a view to the specifics of the Museum's collections.

In addition to dealing with sources of information, the documentation department draws up and records all the Museum's financial contracts with respect to collection items, prepares the complete agenda and all correspondence regarding loans of collection items to exhibitions in the Czech Republic and abroad, is in close contact with Jewish communities and keeps records of objects on loan for liturgical purposes.

The documentation department also gathers information relating to the history of the Jewish Museum in Prague and to the development of its collections, verifies material for the possible restitution of objects from the collection, acquires and records information relating to Judaica in Bohemia and Moravia, and deals with queries from researchers.


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